By the 1980’s Mongolia had become a totally
transformed society. Its population had mushroomed to over two million and was
also heavily urbanized, not just the capital but the new industrial centers of
Darhan and Erdenet north of Ulaanbaatar and Choibalsan in eastern Dornod aimag.
The level of education had also grown, in rural areas as well as urban centers,
creating a growing intelligentsia. Interestingly, the dramatic crackdown on
pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989 barely caused
a ripple in Mongolia. Instead, change came from the West and when perestroika
was introduced in the Soviet Union, the ripples swept into Mongolia. Batmonh’s
new communist leadership had tried unsuccessfully to implement economic change,
but a new generation of Mongolians –mostly educated in the Union Soviet and
Eastern Europe – demanded similar changes. Thankfully, the central role of the
secret police and army had also diminished.
In contrast to other communist states of the time,
Mongolia’s democratic revolution was remarkably peacefully and began with a
series of popular demonstrations in late 1989 and early 1990. In a heady time
frequently recalled by Mongolians today, mass demonstrations filled Ulaanbaatar’s
Suhbaatar Square demanding an end to one-party rule and free elections.
Opposition parties were formed and hunger strikes called.
By March 1990, the Politburo of the long-ruling
Mongolian Revolution People’s Party (MPRP) resigned and massive constitutional
and legislative reforms were implemented. After re-registering itself, the MPRP
was joined by five new democratic parties. In Mongolia’s first free election in
July 1990, the former Communist Party won a majority but agreed to share both
the presidency and the government leadership with the opposition. A new
constitution was drafted declaring Mongolia a parliamentary democracy with an
elected president exercising limited powers,
guarantees of individual and property rights and freedoms, the separation of
powers and a single 76-seat national assembly called the State Great Khural, elected every four years. For most of the times
since, the MPRP-with its strong rural base- has controlled government.
Mongolian’s embrace of democracy has produced
unprecedented freedoms-but also frequently acrimonies debates on the range of
political, social and economic issues. And the excitement of those early days
soon gave way to a downright tortuous and painful transition as the heavily
subsidized and command-led Soviet-Style economy gave way to one based on the
free market. The painful year severe shortages, rationing and unemployment
between1990 and 1992 are still vividly recalled. Mongolians have survived much,
and their resilience is now moulded by rediscovery of their traditional
culture- and its long gloriously agonizing history.
Resource: Carl Robinson "Mongolia Nomad Empire of Eternal Blue Sky"